Bladder Health Hacks

Bladder Health Hacks

Those with incontinence know that having it can be a lot of work. Just being prepared takes effort, and having an accident can create a laundry list (literally) of things you have to do.

There are of course many standard things that you do to protect yourself. Wear protection, talk to your doctor, etc. But, like with any condition, people find different ways of coping that may not always seem as obvious to others. We wanted to know what people do on a daily basis that helps them deal with incontinence. So we asked. Here are some of the best tips we heard:

Talk about it. 

One of the first and best things you can do when you have incontinence is to talk about it. Many people are embarrassed to have incontinence and for that reason try to keep it hidden from friends, family and even their doctor for years. But opening up about your incontinence can really take a load off. You’ll often find that people are supportive you and you may just find the push you need to seek treatment. Too nervous to talk to someone close to you? Try the NAFC message boards. It’s an anonymous forum filled with supportive people who are experiencing bladder or bowel conditions. It’s a warm and friendly community and can be a great place to connect with others who can share tips with you, or just lend an ear.  Sign up for the message boards here.

Don’t be afraid to change your doctor.

Most physicians are very helpful when patients come to them with incontinence. But if you feel that you’re being brushed off, it’s time to find a new physician. Incontinence may be common as we age, but it’s not normal, and you should never be told to just live with it. And, if you’re feeling like your treatment plan just isn’t cutting it, talk to your doctor about changing things up. Remember – you are in charge of your own health. Be your own advocate.  

Baby powder.

We’ve heard from many people that using baby powder helps to keep moisture at bay when wearing absorbent briefs.  This is a great option to try if you experience a lot of sweating.

Research your condition. 

So many people with incontinence live for years in denial, thinking that if they ignore the problem, it might go away, or at the very least, they won’t have to admit they have the condition. But that’s not a good way to live. Learn as much as you can about your condition and the treatments available. Try behavioral modifications to see if any of them work. Talk to your doctor about your research, and let him or her know if you find something you‘re interested in trying.  Again – no one will care more about your health than you, so don’t be a bystander. Get busy and be in the know. Because knowledge really is power.

Pay attention to what you eat. 

It sounds simple, but watching what you eat really can have an effect on your bladder. First, identify your triggers. Keep a bladder diary for a few days and see if you notice any patterns. Do you feel an urgent need every time you have a diet soft drink? Have an accident each morning after your orange juice? You might start to see some trends that correlate to what you eat, indicating that those are foods that are irritating your bladder. Once you identify your problem foods or drinks, try eliminating them and see if it makes a difference.

Don’t be afraid to try lots of products until you find one that works.

There are so many products on the market, it’s nearly impossible that you won’t eventually find one that works for you. The trick is to think about the 3 F’s: form, fit and function. In other words, figure out what style you like, make sure the fit is good, and think about how and when you will use the product. Then, try lots of brands and styles until you find one that works best. Many mail order services offer sample packs to make it easier (and less expensive) to try different products and most of them also have consultants on hand to walk you through selecting something that will be right for you. 

Be brave.

Incontinence can really shake up your confidence. You may feel nervous to go out for fear of having an accident. Or you may be scared that someone will notice you’re wearing absorbent products. But incontinence is a medical condition, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. And since over 25 million people live with incontinence, you likely know someone else who has this problem too. So keep your chin up, get treatment, and get busy living your life. Holding yourself back because of something like incontinence just isn’t worth it.

Can MS Cause Incontinence?

Can MS Cause Incontinence?

March is Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month here in the US and we’re taking a moment to talk about MS and it’s effect on the bladder and bowel.

What is Multiple Sclerosis?

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) happens when the body’s immune system attacks the protective coating around the nerve fibers in the central nervous system (CNS), damaging the nerves. This alters or stops the messages within the CNS and can produce a variety of symptoms in people.

What are the symptoms of MS?  

While symptoms of MS vary from person to person, and even within the same person at different points throughout their lifetime, some of the more common symptoms of MS are fatigue, pain, numbness or tingling, weakness, walking difficulty, vision problems, sexual problems, dizziness and vertigo, bladder and bowel problems, thinking difficulty, emotional changes and depression.1  Luckily, many of these symptoms are treatable with medication.

How does MS affect bladder function?

In a healthy bladder, the nerves in the bladder communicate through the spinal cord to the brain, notifying it that the bladder needs to be emptied. For this process to work smoothly, it requires a coordination between the bladder muscles and the sphincter.

For people with MS, bladder function can be impaired when the signal from the bladder to the brain is delayed or blocked. This can cause the bladder to be either overactive (often referred to as a “spastic” bladder), or under-active, resulting in the inability to empty the bladder completely.  Either of these conditions can lead to a variety of problems, including:

  • Urinary Urgency (The need to urinate frequently and urgently.)

  • Nocturia (Needing to wake to use the bathroom more than one time per night.)

  • Difficulty urinating.

  • Sphincter Dyssynergia A problem where there is both a storage dysfunction and an emptying dysfunction. The bladder is trying to contract and empty, and the urethra contracts instead of relaxing, allowing little or no urine to pass.

  • Under-active Bladder: The nerve signals from the bladder to the brain are damaged and the signal for the bladder to contract and release urine are blocked. This can cause the bladder to eventually overflow and leak urine, or, if the bladder cannot empty completely, results in urinary retention.

In addition to disease related complications, some medications for MS can also cause bladder problems.

How can bladder problems with MS be treated?

Luckily, there are various treatment options that can be used to address bladder problems associated with multiple sclerosis. 

Behavioral modifications, such as avoiding bladder irritating foods and drinks, and bladder retraining can help to manage problems in some people. Pelvic floor physical therapy can also work by strengthening the pelvic floor muscle, providing greater muscle control.

Intermittent self-catheterization, in which a small tube is inserted into the urethra to empty the bladder, can prevent the bladder from overfilling and help prevent urinary infections.

There are many pharmaceutical options available for bladder control. In addition, PTNS, Interstim, and Botox are all in office procedures that can have a positive effect on bladder control for many patients.

Talk to your doctor about your options to find one that works best for you.

References: 1. National MS Society: https://www.nationalmssociety.org/Symptoms-Diagnosis/MS-Symptoms

Could Kegels Actually Hurt Me?

Could Kegels Actually Hurt Me?

You’ve seen the claims. A stronger pelvic floor! Fewer Leaks! Better Sex! The kegel craze is hot right now and for good reason. Kegels can do all of these things and we’re a big proponent of doing them for maintaining good bladder health and a healthy pelvic floor. But before you jump on the kegel bandwagon, read this post. Because while kegels can be super effective for all the reasons listed above, they can sometimes cause problems in women who have certain conditions.

Many women suffer from a weakened pelvic floor, the series of muscles and tissues that form a hammock at the bottom of your pelvis, and are responsible for holding many of your organs (including your bladder) in place. A weakened pelvic floor can be caused by many factors, but pregnancy, childbirth, and aging are all high on the list.  This laxity in the pelvic floor can lead to things like incontinence, or even pelvic organ prolapse if not treated properly.  And a great way to treat it (most of the time) is with kegels.   

But not everyone has a weak pelvic floor – some women experience pelvic floor tension, which prevents the pelvic floor muscles from contracting or relaxing at a normal rate, again making them weak, but in a different way.  This can lead to things like constipation, painful intercourse, or the inability to empty your bladder completely.  

People with pelvic floor tension are advised NOT to do kegels, and if you think about it, it makes sense. Trying to tighten something that is already too tight can make your problems worse.

So, how do you know if you should be doing kegels or not?  Our best advice is to see a physical therapist specialized in women’s health.  A trained PT can give you a thorough evaluation and can determine if you have a pelvic floor that’s too tight or too loose.

An added bonus is that if your PT finds you’re a good candidate for kegels, they’ll be able to show you exactly how to do one – something that is actually somewhat difficult for many women.  And, if you’re advised NOT to do a kegel, they’ll be able to help you learn how to relax your pelvic floor and will show you exercises to help with that as well.

It’s also worth noting that while kegels are great for many people, they also aren’t the end all be all move for your pelvic floor. Your muscles are all connected, after all, so concentrating just on kegels won’t be as effective as if you worked your entire core, glutes and thighs. 

Want to find a PT in your area? Try our Specialist Locator

What Is A Pessary And Do I Need One?

What Is A Pessary And Do I Need One?

If you have incontinence, or a pelvic organ prolapse, you’ve likely heard the term “pessary” tossed around at some point.  Pelvic organ prolapse is a condition in which your pelvic floor becomes weak or compromised – sometimes due to age, sometimes due to trauma (like childbirth), causing one or more of your pelvic organs to collapse into the vagina. Pelvic organ prolapse can be mild, or severe, and symptoms can vary greatly depending on the severity. Some women may not even realize they have a prolapse until later in life.  Symptoms can include pressure or a feeling of heaviness in the vagina, incontinence, or even pain.

While some women can see big improvements in their condition with physical therapy, the condition cannot truly be “fixed” without surgery.  But, it is possible to manage pelvic organ prolapse by using a pessary. 

A pessary is a medical device, typically made out of silicone that is placed in the vagina and is used to support the pelvic floor, and the bladder, uterus and rectum.  Pessaries are not a one-size-fits all type of device. Everyone is different so your doctor will usually fit you for one that works for you. This may take a few tries, so don’t get discouraged if the first one you try doesn’t feel quite right.  Just be open with your doctor and work with them until you get the right fit.

Once you’ve found the right fit, your doctor will train you on how to insert and remove the device.  You’ll also learn how to care for your pessary, which will require weekly or biweekly cleansing.   

Pessaries can be a great solution for women with pelvic organ prolapse, or bladder incontinence, who don’t want to consider surgery (or are not quite ready for surgery yet).  It works by “holding up” the organs that may have collapsed into the vagina, relieving many of the side effects of a prolapse, such as the feeling of pressure or heaviness in the vagina, or incontinence.   

If you think you may be a good candidate for a pessary, talk to your doctor. They can review the pros and cons and help get you fitted for one.  It’s a great option for those experiencing symptoms of pelvic organ prolapse, and can provide great relief without undergoing surgery.

 

Learning To Open Up To Family And Friends About Incontinence

Learning To Open Up To Family And Friends About Incontinence

Talking about incontinence is hard for many people.  Even talking to a doctor can be challenging: on average, people wait 7 years before even seeking help for this condition.  But sometimes opening up can be the best thing you can do to begin the process of moving past your embarrassment and moving on to treatment.  

But how do you start? And whom do you start with?  Our advice is simple: find someone you trust and whom you think will be supportive. Many times this is a spouse or a partner, or a close friend or family member.  You don’t need to shout about your bladder leaks from the rooftops – often just telling one person helps to unleash the burden you’ve been carrying around and can help give voice to the anxiety and worry that has been racing around in your head.

Here are some great tips to follow when starting the conversation: 

1. Set the conversation up by letting them know that you need their support.  Some ways to start the conversation might be:

  • “I’ve been dealing with a health issue for a while and could really use someone to talk to about it. Can I talk to you?”

  • “I have a condition that’s really been getting me down. Do you have a moment to talk?”

  • “As a close friend/spouse/family member, I know that you are supportive of me. Can I talk openly to you about an issue I’ve been experiencing?”

 2. Be open.  If you’re going to talk to them, then make sure you’re being open and honest.  We know talking to others about your own bladder leakage can be hard, but if you’re really talking to someone close to you, they’ve likely suspected something was up for a while.  Let them know not just the issue, but how it’s been making you feel. 

3. Tell them what you need from them.  Are you talking to them because you don’t want to hide the problem anymore? Do you need some help researching treatment options? Are you asking for their advice on what to do? Or do you just want a sounding board to help get some things off your chest? Whatever the case may be, help them be there for you by letting them know what you expect from them.

Opening up can be hard, but it’s healthy to talk about the things that are bothering you.  And, if you feel that you don’t have anyone close to you to discuss the issue (or even if you do!), make an appointment with your doctor. He or she will be able to give you sound advice and treatment recommendations. And, it’s likely that he’s been in that seat before with other patients, so he knows just what you’re going through.   

Need help finding a physician? Visit our Find A Specialist Tool!

Does Incontinence Give You Social Anxiety? Here Are Four Ways To Deal With It.

Incontinence And Social Anxiety. 4 Ways To Deal With It.

Living with incontinence can present many physical challenges – needing to get to a restroom quickly, changing clothes or bedding after an accident, cleaning yourself up after a leak. But the emotional effects may be the most damaging.

Those who don’t live with this condition may not realize the impact that it has on it’s victims: fear of social events or gatherings, constantly seeking out bathrooms in the event of an emergency, concerns about unpleasant odors, and the incessant fear of having an accident in public, or that people will learn your secret. These are real side effects that can’t be ignored, and can create great social anxiety for people living with incontinence. For many people, it’s enough that they avoid social functions at all cost, causing their relationships with friends and family to wane.  

If you live with social anxiety because of incontinence, there are some things you can do to overcome it. See our list below for our 4 best tips. 

Be Prepared. 

Prevention is always the best medicine.  Make sure you’re prepared for a social situation by arming yourself with the right products and information. If you’ve got plans to attend a social event, make sure you’re prepared in the case of an accident.  Know where the bathrooms are and have a spare set of clothes in case you need to change quickly.  Choose your clothing wisely – black is often a forgiving color in the event of leaks. 

Stay Active.  

Keeping a regular fitness routine can do wonders for both your incontinence and your anxiety.  Maintaining an optimal weight can help minimize bladder leaks. And, regular movement can be an effective way to control cases of mild anxiety. You don’t need any fancy equipment or gym membership to make this happen either. Just getting outside for a 30 minute walk most days of the week will do wonders. (Read our tips on how to start a walking group!

Talk About It. 

Sometimes you just need to get your frustrations out. If your incontinence is affecting your mood, find a close friend or family member you trust to talk about it. Often just telling someone our troubles can take a load off and us feel not quite so alone. Don’t feel like you have anyone to talk to? Sign up for the NAFC message boards and connect with thousands of people who understand what you’re going through and are ready to listen. If all else fails, write your situation and feelings down on paper.  Journaling can be a great way to explore how you’re feeling and make sense of your emotions.

Get Treatment.

We’ve saved the best tip for last.  Treatment, for both incontinence and social anxiety, is readily available.  There are many things you can do to manage incontinence, from behavioral changes, to medications, or even surgery.  And anxiety can be treated in a plethora of ways as well – cognitive (talk) therapy, meditation, and medications can go a long way in helping you deal with the problem.  There’s no need to suffer in silence.  Talk to your doctor about what you’re facing. They will be able to put you on a treatment plan to help you deal with these difficult conditions so that you can get back to living your best life.

Need help finding a specialist to treat your condition? Visit our Specialist Locator Tool to find one in your area.

Best Foods For Bladder Health

Best Foods For Bladder Health

Do you run to the bathroom after every meal?  Do you ever notice that you always seem to have an accident after eating a specific type of food? It’s no coincidence.  What you eat and drink has a huge effect on your bathroom habits, and if you’re suffering from bladder leakage (or bowel leakage, for that matter), it’s worth your time to start paying more attention to your diet. 

There are many known bladder irritants that may be causing you trouble. 

Below is a list of some of the most common foods that have been known to irritate the bladder:

  • Alcohol

  • Apples

  • Carbonated beverages

  • Chocolate

  • Citrus Juice & Fruits

  • Coffee

  • Corn Syrup

  • Cranberries

  • Spicy Foods

  • Honey

  • Milk

  • Sugar & Artificial Sweeteners

  • Tea

  • Tomatoes

  • Vinegar 

The sugar, caffeine, or acidity in these foods and drinks can irritate the bladder, causing an accidental leakage to occur. If you think one of these foods may be contributing to your bladder leaks, try eliminating it from your diet for a couple of weeks and see what happens. After a while, slowly add it back in and see if the problem reemerges. If so, you know it’s a food or drink you should avoid. 

Everyone is different of course, and not all of the foods listed above will be triggers for everyone. That cup of coffee that causes you to sprint to the ladies room each morning may not have any effect on someone else struggling with bladder leakage. That’s why it’s so important to keep track of what you eat and drink. A bladder diary can be ideal for this task by letting you track what you consume, and also when you have accidents.  Over time, you may start to see a correlation between that tomato sauce you love and your trips to the bathroom.  A bladder diary also comes in handy when talking with your doctor about your condition. It gives them a roadmap of what you’re experiencing and helps them in diagnosing your problem and finding a solution.

Ready to start tracking? Download your free bladder or bowel diary here.

 

Should I Use A Probiotic?

Should You Use A Probiotic?

If you’ve been paying attention to the news at all in the past year or two, you’ve likely noticed an increase in stories about the importance of gut health. The gut, it turns out, is responsible for how your body works –your immunity, your energy levels, your hormone balance, waste elimination, and even how you think can all be affected by an unhealthy gut.  And while there are many factors that affect gut health (stress levels, the amount of shut-eye you get), what you eat plays an important role in ensuring your gut is helping you operate optimally. 

As of late, many health gurus have been touting probiotics as a great way to improve your gut health. And it’s true that the gut needs good probiotics, the “good” bacteria found in some foods and supplements to help it do its job. But how do you get these good bacteria, and are they right for you? 

Most experts agree that a healthy dose of probiotics is a good thing for most people. You can get many probiotics through foods you might be eating already. Fermented foods such as sauerkraut, tempeh and kimchi, yogurt, and beverages like kefir and kombucha, are all great options if you want to eat more probiotic foods. You may also want to consider a probiotic supplement if your diet lacks these food types. 

Experts warn to use a bit of caution when initially consuming foods high in probiotics, as they may cause a bit of irritation in your digestive system as your body gets used to them.  Additionally, many probiotic supplements are not regulated by the FDA, so it’s important to do your research on brands and choose a high-quality product.  As always, talk with your doctor before you start taking a probiotic, as they may not be for everyone. Those with an illness that affects the immune system may not be a good fit, as the probiotics may cause the person to get sick.

Want some more info on this subject? Here’s a great guide on taking probiotics from Harvard Health.

Can Incontinence Be Prevented?

Can Incontinence Be Prevented?

We often talk about incontinence as if it has already happened. In most cases, if you’re visiting this website, it probably has. But there are many things that you can do that can prevent incontinence from starting in the first place. Most of these things may also help you manage, or even eliminate symptoms of incontinence once you’ve already gotten it. Read below for some tips to stop incontinence in its tracks.

5 Tips To Prevent Incontinence

Tip #1: Maintain A Healthy Weight

Carrying around extra weight puts a lot of strain on the pelvic floor, causing the muscles to weaken and lead to leaks. In addition, folks who are overweight generally put extra pressure on their bladder, which can lead to leakage. Maintain a healthy weight by following a healthy diet and making exercise a part of your daily routine. Bonus: incorporating exercise into your day can strengthen your core and pelvic floor muscles, leading to even greater protection from leaks.

Tip #2: Don’t Smoke

Smoking on its own is an ugly habit and harmful to your health in more ways than one. People who smoke can eventually develop a chronic “smokers cough”. This chronic coughing can put a lot of strain on the pelvic floor, causing it to weaken and lead to incontinence. Smoking also irritates the bladder, causing you to need more frequent trips to the bathroom. And, smoking can lead to bladder cancer. Need help kicking the habit? Read these tips.  

Tip #3: Keep Your Pelvic Floor In Shape

The pelvic floor is a basket of muscles that supports the bladder, rectum and the uterus in women, and the bladder, rectum and prostate in men.  These muscles are essential in maintaining control over your bladder and bowel. Keeping the pelvic floor healthy can go a long way in preventing or treating incontinence.  Learn more about the pelvic floor and how you can protect it here. 

Tip #4: See A PT After Childbirth

We just talked about how important the pelvic floor is in maintaining continence. But certain things, like childbirth, can really wreak havoc on the pelvic floor and cause it to weaken. Many women don’t understand the impact that a weakened pelvic floor can have on them, even long after the baby is born.  Seeing a physical therapist specially trained in women’s health soon after childbirth can be very helpful, as they can ensure that you are healing properly and learning how to correctly (and safely) get your pelvic floor back into shape.  If left untreated, a weakened pelvic floor can lead to things like incontinence and even pelvic organ prolapse later in life, so this simple step can go a long way in protecting yourself for the future.  Learn more about how a physical therapist can help you here.

Tip #5: Watch Your Diet

This may seem to echo Tip #1, but even if you are at an ideal weight, if you’re eating foods that irritate your bladder (and if you’re susceptible to incontinence) then you may be setting yourself up for leaks.  There are many common bladder irritants (see a list of some of them here) but they can vary from person to person: what irritates one person may not bother another. If you do experience leaks, pay close attention to your diet and take note of foods that may be triggering leaks.

Your Guide To Treating Incontinence

Your Guide To Treating Incontinence

For many of us, January is a time for setting resolutions – A blank slate where we can rewrite a new reality for ourselves. For those with incontinence, knowing where to start treatment can be one of the biggest challenges.  Luckily, we’re here to help.

Treatment for incontinence has come a long way in recent years.

Here’s a breakdown of steps you can take right now, as well as some more advanced options to look at for the future.

1. Manage incontinence with adult absorbent products.

Managing your incontinence is much different than treating your incontinence, but it is the logical first step. After all, you need to find some way to stay dry until you can properly address the issue. For most people, management will consist of a few things – finding a good absorbent product that works, and watching your food and drink intake to see if there are certain triggers that may make your incontinence worse. Management is a first step, but definitely not the last - while both of these can do wonders in helping you control the symptoms of incontinence, they’re not really addressing the true problem.

2. Behavioral Therapy

Along with diet and exercise, there are several other things you may want to try when treating incontinence. Bladder and bowel retraining – which literally involves training your muscles to hold urine or bowel movements for longer more controlled periods of time – are a good step to try and improvements can often be seen in several weeks.  In addition, many people see vast improvements from physical therapy. A qualified physical therapist (usually specialized in treating the pelvic floor) can give you an examination, pinpoint areas of weakness or tension, and provide a customized treatment plan designed to address your muscle strength or weakness. (Need help finding a PT? Check our Specialist Locator.)

3. Medications.

If behavioral modifications don’t yield the results your looking for, medications may be your next option. Most medications for bladder control work by relaxing the bladder muscles and preventing the spasms that sometimes accompany overactive bladder and incontinence. These work differently for everyone, and can sometimes produce unwanted side effects though, so talk to your doctor about your options before settling on one.

4. Advanced Therapy Options

If medications don’t work for you, or you don’t like the side effects that they present, there are still other options. InterStim and Botox injections are two of the more advanced, yet very effective procedures available.   InterStim, also known as sacral neuromodulation, works by stimulating the nerves that control your bladder, bowel and rectum, and the muscles related to urinary and anal functions (the sacral nerves). InterStim stimulates these nerves with a mild current, which helps your bladder/bowel/rectum work as they should.  Botox, treats overactive bladder symptoms by calming the nerves that trigger the overactive bladder muscle. Both procedures are fairly simple and take about an hour to complete.

5. Surgery.

For some, surgery may be an option. There are several types of surgeries that address stress urinary incontinence.  These procedures are intended to help correct a weakened pelvic floor, where the bladder neck and urethra have dropped. The most popular procedure is to use a sling, which serves as a “hammock” to support the urethra. Surgical slings may be used in both men and women who experience stress incontinence, and also women who have experienced pelvic organ prolapse. There are many types of sling procedures so be sure to talk to your doctor about your options and research what is right for you.

The most important thing to remember when exploring incontinence treatment is that you have options. Talk to your doctor about your wishes and work together to find a treatment that works for you.

Ask The Expert: How Do I Manage My Incontinence While Traveling?

Ask The Expert: How Do I Manage My Incontinence While Traveling?

Question:  I’m headed across country over the holidays to visit some family. What are your tips for managing incontinence while traveling such a long distance?

Answer:  This is a common concern for people with incontinence. Being in an unfamiliar environment, especially one that may have limited bathrooms or restrictions on when you can use them can create anxiety in anyone who has trouble with bladder control. But follow the two main tips tips and you’ll be on your way to a leak free holiday!

Preparation

As with most things, preparation is everything.  Knowing that you have some backups in place can go a long way in making you feel more comfortable about your trip. Think ahead to your trip and think about what you might need. Are you traveling by car or flying? Each presents it’s own challenges for someone who is incontinent.  If you’re flying, try to get an isle seat so you have easier access to a bathroom. Traveling by car? Plan your route where with some designated bathroom stops built in so you’re never going too long without a break.  Think about the type of traveling you’ll be doing, and plan accordingly.

You also may want to limit your fluids – within reason. Drink enough so that you don’t feel thirsty, but don’t down that big gulp right before you hop in the car or get on a flight. Use some common sense here.

 Packing

This one kind of goes along with preparation, but think about what you use on a daily basis to manage your incontinence and be sure to pack plenty of supplies.  Make sure to bring an extra set of clothes with you, as well as extra absorbent protection or medication if you use it.  You never know when your travel plans might change due to canceled flights or weather and you don’t want to be stuck without these items.  If you’re flying, pack some of these supplies in your carry-on so that you have them with you in the event your flight is delayed, or your luggage gets lost. 

If you’re staying at a loved one’s house, consider if bedding protection is needed. Waterproof pads can be a great thing to bring along and will give you peace of mind at night.   You also may want to bring along any laundry detergent or plastic bags to put soiled garments in, if needed.

By planning ahead and packing accordingly, you’ll be one step ahead of the game, and will have some peace of mind knowing that you’re prepared for whatever your travels may throw at you! 

Happy Holidays!

What Causes Incontinence In Women?

What Causes Incontinence In Women_.jpg

Incontinence is a condition that affects over 25 million men and women in America. It can really happen to anyone, and can be caused by many different things. But it is much more common in women – nearly twice as common actually – and unfortunately has become something that many people (even potentially your doctor) brush off as being a normal part of aging. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

Why Is Incontinence More Prevalent In Women?

Incontinence can have many root causes.  Being overweight, problems with the prostate in men, and even conditions that cause damage to the nerves, such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, or even diabetes can all lead to incontinence.  But it’s no secret that women suffer from incontinence more than men. This is in part due to the fact that things like pregnancy, childbirth, and menopause are unique to women and create extra pressure and complications that can cause incontinence. 

The pressure of carrying a baby for 9 months and the trauma of childbirth to the pelvic floor can weaken the pelvic floor, making it difficult to stay continent.  Additionally the hormonal changes that occur during menopause cause a change in continence.  A decrease in estrogen can cause the vaginal tissues to become less elastic and dry and can lead to incontinence and urinary tract infections.

What Types Of Incontinence Are There 

Did you know that there are actually different types of Incontinence? Depending on what you have, there may be different options available to you.

Urge Incontinence

Urge incontinence is the frequent and urgent need to use the bathroom, accompanied by bladder leakage.  You may have a sudden feeling that you have to go to the bathroom right now, or it may be triggered by familiar things, such as arriving home, washing the dishes, etc. This type of condition may also exist without bladder leakage, and is then referred to as Overactive Bladder. 

Stress Urinary Incontinence

Stress urinary incontinence happens when pressure is placed on the bladder and causes bladder leakage. This type of leakage might happen when you’re working out, or even when you sneeze or laugh. Unlike Urge incontinence, stress urinary incontinence is not typically accompanied by the sensation of a sudden urge to urinate. Rather, stress urinary incontinence is caused by a weakened pelvic floor, and/or a weak sphincter muscle.  Stress urinary incontinence often occurs in women (although men can have it too), and typically as a result of pregnancy and childbirth. It’s a condition that can get worse as you get older, since we lose pelvic muscle tone as we age. Luckily, there are many treatment options available, and behavioral modifications, such as learning how to create a healthy pelvic floor, can do wonders for this type of incontinence.

Mixed Incontinence

As the name implies, many women can suffer from both Stress Urinary Incontinence, and Urge Incontinence, although one is typically more severe than others. Treatment options for mixed incontinence are typically the same as the treatments you would use for stress urinary incontinence, or urge incontinence.

What Are My Options?

Luckily, there are many treatment options available for the various types of incontinence women tend to have.  Below are just a few treatment options available.

Behavioral Modifications.

Often, simple changes to our lifestyle, including changes to our diet and exercise regimen, can ease a lot of the symptoms of incontinence in women.  Learning the foods and drinks that irritate the bladder, and knowing how to strengthen the core and pelvic floor muscles can do a great deal to help reduce or even eliminate symptoms.

 Absorbents

Absorbent products come in all shapes and sizes and are a great option for those who need some extra protection. Read our guide to finding the right absorbent product for you.

 Medications

There are many types of medications available that can sooth an irritable bladder. These medications typically work by relaxing the muscles around the bladder, or stopping the signal to your bladder that you need to go right now!

Procedures

If medications and behavioral modification don’t work for you, there are several options that you may want to try before you think about surgery. Many women have seen success with botox injections into their bladder (it’s not just for wrinkles!), and different forms of neuromodulation, small pulses that stimulate the nerves involved in controlling the bladder.  Learn more about these options here.

Surgery

Finally surgery can be a good option for those who have tried other treatments without success. There are several types of surgical procedures, including urinary diversion, sling procedures, and augmentation cystoplasty, that can help with incontinence in women.

It’s important to note that no treatment is 100% effective all the type. Talk with your doctor about what you can expect with each treatment, as well as the pros and cons associated with them.

Urinary incontinence can have a big impact on a woman’s life and it’s important to get it treated.  Too many women live with symptoms of urinary incontinence, thinking it’s just a normal part of aging. But there are many treatments available and it can make life so much more enjoyable when you’re not looking for a bathroom or worried about having an accident. 

If you live with urinary incontinence, make an appointment with your doctor to talk about treatment options.  

Give To NAFC With AmazonSmile!

Give To NAFC! Shop with AmazonSmile!

Hello Readers!   

Want an easy way to give back to NAFC by doing something you’re probably already doing anyway? Shop with AmazonSmile and select NAFC as your dedicated charity!  AmazonSmile is a website operated by Amazon with the same products, prices, and shopping features as Amazon.com. The difference is that when you shop on AmazonSmile, the AmazonSmile Foundation will donate a small portion of your purchase price to the charitable organization of your choice. This works all year long, but the contributions can really add up during the holiday season when you’re buying presents for your loved ones. 

Giving back with Amazon Smile is easy! Here’s how to do it:

  1. Visit AmazonSmile by typing https://smile.amazon.com into your webbrowser. (Bookmark this page and use it for all your Amazon shopping so that you can always make a difference with your purchase!)

  2. Sign into your account and type National Association For Continence into the search bar as your charity of choice. Once you select National Association For Continence as your charity of choice, you’ll receive an email confirming your selection.

  3. Shop as you normally would!


Now all your gifts can make a difference! 

 

Want more ways to give? Visit our donation page to learn how to give back to NAFC!  

 

 

Want To Make A Difference For NAFC This Holiday Season? Here's How To Give Back.

Learn How To Make A difference For Those With Incontinence

Learn How To Make A difference For Those With Incontinence

Another year will soon come to a close and we hope that we’ve made enough of a difference in helping you managing your incontinence that you’ll consider giving something back. NAFC is a small non-profit with all the expenses of a large organization: website upkeep and maintenance, staff, and the development of continued educational tools and programs for those touched by incontinence.

While only a small amount of those who visit our website or read this blog typically give to NAFC, if everyone donated even a small amount, it would be enough to help us reach our goals and continue our mission of raising awareness of and de-stigmatizing. If you’d like to give back to us in some way, but aren’t sure how, read the suggestions below:

  1. Make A Donation. The most straightforward way to help us is to make a donation to NAFC. Your donation will go toward developing new programs and tools, keeping our information up to date, and advocating for quality standards for absorbent products. Donate today.

  2. Consider a gift to NAFC on Giving Tuesday! On Giving Tuesday, November 27th, 2018, starting at 8 AM EST, Facebook and Paypal are matching donations, up to $7 Million Dollars! Plus, Facebook is waiving all normal fees associated with donating. Give to NAFC through our Facebook page and help us take advantage of this great opportunity to double our dollars!

  3. Start Your Own Fundraiser To Raise Money For NAFC On Facebook. We know it’s not always possible to give, but you can still make a difference by creating your own fundraiser for NAFC on Facebook. It’s easy!

  4. Make A Difference When You Shop For Holiday Gifts! Support our cause during the holiday season by shopping through AmazonSmile or GoodShop and selecting the National Association For Continence as your non-profit recipient. (Tip: You can do this all year long – not just during the holiday season!)

  5. Become A Professional Member Of NAFC If You’re A Healthcare Professional. Membership comes with great benefits including a new member kit, invitations to participate in round table discussions, opportunities to be featured on our blog or in our newsletter, and the knowledge that you are helping support an organization that is much needed by your patients. Learn more about membership and join us today!

  6. Buy Your Whole Office A Corporate Membership! Looking for the perfect holiday gift for your office? Become a Corporate Member of NAFC! Corporate members receive all the benefits of a normal membership, at a discounted rate. Learn more about our Corporate Membership offering here and sign up today!

We’re proud to support those with incontinence through education, community and advocacy.  We hope that this year you’ll include us in your giving plans so that we can continue our mission of helping everyone learn to live a Life Without Leaks!

Don't Let Nocturia Keep You From Getting The Rest You Need This Holiday Season

The holidays are a time of joy for many - the happiness and brightness of the season, and being close to those you love. But for many it can also mean times of stress and anxiety. Finding the perfect gift, managing budgets, holiday parties and tense family relationships can make for a stressful time of year. And, when you add in something like nocturia, it can mean even a greater stress, due to less sleep and more irritability during the day.

Nocturia, due to nocturnal polyuria, is defined as waking 2 or more times to use the bathroom, and a recent poll showed that nocturia affects up to 35% of US adults. Nocturia isn’t just annoying. It can lead to lost sleep and a feeling of drowsiness, irritability and poor concentration during the day. What’s more, if you live with nocturia, you may even be keeping your partner awake with all those trips to the bathroom.

The surprising thing is that even though many people have nocturia, most people - 65%! - have never even heard of the condition. A recent poll showed that among nocturia sufferers, 66% have never spoken to their doctor about their condition, because they think it’s just a normal part of aging, or that nothing can be done to treat it.

If you suffer from multiple trips to the toilet each night, you should know that nocturia is a real condition that’s treatable. There are behavior modifications you can make, and medications that can lessen your nightly bathroom visits, and get you back to getting the sleep you need.

Watch our newest video for this holiday season on nocturia, and learn how you too can treat the condition and start getting more of the sleep you need - during the holidays, and all year long.

Advanced Therapies For Overactive Bladder

Advanced Therapies For Overactive Bladder (OAB)

All month long we’ve been talking about ways to treat Overactive Bladder – that urgent need to go to the bathroom many times per day (and sometimes night!).  If you have OAB, you may have tried switching up your diet, adding in pelvic floor exercises, or even trying different types of medications to treat your symptoms. But if those didn’t work (they don’t for everyone) or if the side effects made them difficult to continue, you may want to try some advanced therapies.

What are advanced therapies for OAB?

Percutaneous Tibial Nerve Stimulation

This treatment stimulates the nerve responsible for bladder and pelvic floor function by placing an acupuncture-like needle in the skin near your ankle. During treatment, a device sends mini electrical pulses to the tibial nerve, which changes the activity of the bladder. This is a gradual procedure and must be performed weekly for 12 weeks, and then occasionally as determined by a doctor.  

Sacral neuromodulation

Sacral neuromodulation (SNM) is a procedure that is performed in your doctor’s office and modulates the nerve activity between the brain and the bladder through electric stimulation of the sacral nerve. The sacral nerve delivers signals between the brain and the bladder.  SNM helps to control these signals, so that the bladder functions normally. 

SNM involves 2 phases – an evaluation phase and an implantation phase.  During the evaluation phase, which lasts around 2 weeks and is designed to see if SNM will be a beneficial option to you, a thin, temporary wire is inserted in your lower back, near the sacral nerves, which control the bladder.  A device is connected to the wire, which delivers electric stimulation to the sacral nerves.

Once your doctor has determined that SNM will be effective for you, the wire used during the evaluation period will be removed and a more permanent device, similar to a pacemaker is implanted just under the skin, usually in the buttocks.  Your doctor will monitor you over time, but in most cases, it has shown to be effective in patients for as many as five years.

Both of these options are effective ways to treat Overactive Bladder, if behavioral therapies or medications are not an option for you. 

To learn more about advanced therapies to treat Overactive Bladder, watch our 4th video below from our new series on Managing Overactive Bladder.  Then talk to your doctor to see if an advanced treatment is right for you.

Giving Tuesday Is November 27th, 2018! Make NAFC A Part Of Your Giving Plans!

Give To NAFC on Giving Tuesday, 2018!

Give To NAFC on Giving Tuesday, 2018!

Giving Tuesday is a time to take a break from all the excitement of the holidays and excess and focus on something that truly matters: giving back and helping those who need it. 

There are many worthy causes out there, but this year we hope you will consider making a donation to NAFC on Giving Tuesday. As you know, we’ve made it our mission to ensure that everyone living with incontinence has the tools and resources they need to overcome this condition – a condition that that can cause sadness, isolation, embarrassment and even depression.

There are 35 million Americans who live with a bladder or bowel condition. Help us continue to provide them with the education, community and tools they need to live a life without leaks.

 Ways you can give:

  • Make A Donation On Our Facebook Page!  On Giving Tuesday, PayPal is partnering with Facebook to match donations made through Facebook up to 7 Million dollars!!!  Plus, Facebook is waiving all their fees which makes it an ideal time to give.  Donate here:  www.facebook.com/BHealth.NAFC

  • Donate on our website!  You can easily make a donation right from www.NAFC.org/donate.   

  • Make a difference while you shop!  Bookmark this link and use it to shop with Amazon Smile.  Just select The National Association For Continence as your chosen charity and a portion of all your purchases will go to NAFC!

Please consider a gift to NAFC on Giving Tuesday. 35 million Americans are depending on it.  

Thank you,

The National Association For Continence

 

Surgery For Overactive Bladder

Surgical Options For Overactive Bladder

Overactive Bladder at its best (is there really such a thing?) can be annoying. The constant running to the bathroom can be frustrating to say the least. But at its worst, OAB can be debilitating. Those with severe OAB make multiple trips to the bathroom a day and even night, and many times may have embarrassing accidents too.  It can cause anxiety in social situations, limit interaction with friends and family, and can even negatively affect a person’s work. If you think you’ve tried everything and it hasn’t worked for you, surgery may be an option.

Surgery is typically a last resort for most people and should be considered only after more conservative options, such as behavioral modifications, medication or even advanced therapies like Sacral Neuromodulation have failed.  The surgeries listed below are often done on women who no longer wish to have children, as childbirth can often remove many of the benefits of surgery.   

What types of surgeries are available?

Augmentation Cystoplasty

This procedure increases the size of the bladder, enabling the bladder to store more urine. A small amount of tissue is typically taken from the intestine and added to the wall of the bladder to make it bigger. In some cases, a catheter may be needed after this surgery has been performed.

Urinary Diversion

This procedure takes the tubes that lead from the kidneys to the bladder, and reroutes them through the abdominal wall to the outside of the body. Urine is then collected in an ostomy bag – a specially designed bag to be worn on the abdomen. While this option does require maintenance (emptying the bag, keeping the area clean and safe from infection) it does allow an active life post surgery. 

Sling Procedure

Vaginal sling procedures are surgeries that help control stress urinary incontinence, which happens when you leak urine upon coughing, laughing, sneezing, lifting or exercising. The basic concept of a sling is to place a strong piece of material beneath the urethra as a supporting “hammock”. During the procedure, physicians use a sling placed around the urethra to lift it, or the bladder, back into a normal position.

There are many different types of sling procedures, as well as a number of different sling materials available, so talk to your doctor about your options, as well as the pros and cons for each one.

Is surgery for me?

The decision to have surgery can be difficult, as there are pros and cons with each procedure. But, if your OAB symptoms are severe, and you have tried all other options, surgery may be right for you. Be sure to talk with your doctor about all of your options, including what the procedure is like, the materials used, the pros and cons of different surgical options, and the recovery times for each.  It’s also important to talk with your doctor about what you can expect after surgery, as not everyone is completely cured from incontinence after these procedures.  A frank discussion with your doctor, and your own research on surgical options can help you decide if this is a path you would like to consider.

 Learn more about surgery options for OAB in our 6th and final video of our series on managing Overactive Bladder. 

Treating Overactive Bladder With Medications Or Injections

Treating Overactive Bladder With Medications Or Injections

Do you live with symptoms of Overactive Bladder (OAB)? The urgent, frequent need to go to the bathroom? If so, you’re not alone. Nearly 33 million Americans live with Overactive Bladder. And while it may not seem like a big deal to some, to those who live with the condition it can be frustrating and embarrassing – especially when those symptoms cause you to have an accident.  

Throughout our series on OAB this month, we’ve been talking about different ways to manage OAB symptoms. You can try simple things like altering your diet, and adding in different types of exercise, but if you don’t see improvements with those steps, medication may be a good option for you.

How medication works to treat OAB 

Overactive bladder is caused when the bladder muscles involuntarily contract. This makes you feel like you have to go to the bathroom, even if you just went, and can sometimes even cause leakage if you’re not able to make it in time. There are a few different types of medication to treat Overactive Bladder.

Anticholinergic drugs work by blocking the signal to your bladder that causes the contractions that create that urgent need to go RIGHT NOW! With the signal blocked the need to release urine is reduced so those many, urgent trips to the bathroom are lessened as well.

Beta-3 adrenergic drugs work by relaxing the smooth muscle that surrounds the bladder, which increases the bladder’s ability to hold more urine, meaning less trips to the bathroom. 

Both of these types of medications have been shown to effectively treat Overactive Bladder, but some people can experience side effects, such as dry mouth, blurry vision, or constipation.  Some of the medications also interact with other types of meds, so be sure to tell your doctor everything you’re taking.

Botox® injections for OAB

Botox® injections are also an option for treating Overactive Bladder.  Injecting Botox, or onabotulinumtoxinA, into the bladder muscle blocks the nerve signal that triggers OAB, reducing the urgent need to urinate and the number of times you need to empty your bladder each day. A small percentage of people using botox have found the need to use a catheter if they experience urinary retention, and repeat injections may need to be performed.

For a list of the specific types of medications to treat OAB, click here.

If you’re living with symptoms of Overactive Bladder, like frequency and urgency, watch the below video about managing OAB with Medications, our 4th video in a series about treating Overactive Bladder.  Then talk with your doctor to see if medications may be an option for you.

Patient Perspective: Overcoming Overactive Bladder

Overcoming Overactive Bladder

When I was in my early forties, I suddenly found myself rushing to the bathroom constantly. The urge would strike without warning causing me to sprint there lest I want to have an accident everywhere. It wasn’t too big of a deal when I was at home – I was typically able to make it to a bathroom, but when I was in an unfamiliar place, I’d feel panicked until I knew where every toilet in the place was, just in case I needed to make a mad dash to one.

I had been at stay at home mom for the last several years, caring for my youngest daughter, but when she finally started school, I decided it was time to return to the working world. But first, I resolved to get my bladder under control – I didn’t want to be rushing from meeting to meeting with important clients with the fear of peeing my pants.

I visited my doctor and found out that I had Overactive Bladder. It’s where your bladder has sudden spasms that cause you to feel the need to empty it – even if you just went. He prescribed a medication, which helped a lot and made me feel more confident as I returned to work. I’m now exploring a procedure involving nerve stimulation that is supposed to be even more effective and won’t require me to take medications every day. 

I’m so happy I got this treated before returning to work, and wish I would have done it sooner! It would have made heading to the park with my daughter much less daunting! Don’t wait to see a doctor if you have OAB. Turns out there are lots of things that you can do to treat this common (but not normal!) problem.

 

Jane F.

Portland, OR